I am on a journey to liberate myself from shame when it comes to my sexuality. This journey is fairly new and incredibly uncomfortable, but it is vital. As I grow in my spirituality and consciousness I become hungry to peel back all the layers of my identity. What lies underneath and how did it get there? As I move through this journey of self-exploration, I begin to notice something profound. All the ways that I hurt, heal, and cope as a result of the traumas I’ve experienced are interconnected. There is a thru line of shame that weaves through all seemingly unrelated experiences. This feeling of shame has no beginning and no end. It has no clear origin. Yet it keeps me bound. Like a weed trespassing in a garden. I am pulling up shame from my flower field – but first I must find its roots.
The Roots of Shame
When I became sexually active in my late teens and throughout my early twenties I experienced shame with every sexual encounter I had. It was normalized and expected. To bask in the afterglow of pleasure mingled with the density of shame was what I knew sex to feel like. It wasn’t until I got married when I was 29 years old that I began to question this symbiotic relationship between pleasure and shame. Why did I still feel this way after sharing an intimate moment with my husband? Somewhere deep down inside I always felt like I was doing something deviant and secretive. Some nights I would skip my nightly prayer at my altar after having sex because it felt wrong to connect with my higher power after engaging in sexual intimacy. It felt like pleasure was on the opposite end of the spectrum from goodness. I could not be good if I experienced sexual pleasure. My awakening to this unconscious belief led me to begin unpacking its origins. What have I been taught about my own sexual pleasure?
I began to explore my earliest memories of feeling shame. As a child I would be told by wellmeaning family matriarchs to close my legs in the company of men. These men included my uncles, cousins, and father. I was taught to be mindful of the length of my skirt and the sway of my budding hips. I learned that being sexualized by adult men was inevitable and when it happened it was because I had broken one of these golden rules. I learned that when I was sexualized by a man it was my fault. That my blossoming womanhood was sinful because it was sexual. It was my responsibly to keep it contained. I learned that men are not liable for their response to the presence of my consuming, sinful womanhood. I learned that sex and pleasure for woman was inherently shameful. As I grew older and became interested in sex, I understood that my curiosity was something dirty that I should keep a secret. When I was 17 years and began having sex, I felt filthy and ashamed. My own pleasure made me feel resentful of myself. Yet I had learned that this is what sex and pleasure should feel like as a woman. Shameful. I did not question it.
I never learned that I deserve to feel pleasure. That human beings are sexual creatures and my womanhood doesn’t deny me of that. I was never allowed the freedom to explore the ways that sex and intimacy can co-exist with self-love and owning my power. I didn’t know that my vulva was a source of life, sacred energy, and creativity. I didn’t realize how I was robbed of my innocence when taught to snap my legs shut when a man entered the room as a child. That shame that I was introduced to as a girl is the same that creeps into my bed when my husband pulls me in for a kiss in the darkness. I am determined to unlearn, to heal, and to reclaim my power because I have two daughters. I want their relationship to sexuality and intimacy to be different from mine. I want to disrupt the cycle of shame and disempowerment that the patriarchy tries to instill in them. I want them to understand that sex can play many roles. It can be a source of love, connection, liberation, self-love, and divine pleasure. It can also be a barrier to their selfesteem, worthiness, and growth. I want my girls to know that their relationship to their sexuality has everything to do with their relationship to themselves.
The Seeds of Pleasure
I am taking intentional steps in my journey towards reclaiming my sexual power and liberating myself from shame. First and foremost, I am having frequent, honest conversations about my pleasure with my lover, my husband Ezra. I openly express to Ezra when I am in the mood for sex and when I am not. Then before we have sex I tell him exactly what I am in the mood for and what I am not in the mood for. Sometimes that sounds like “Tonight, I’m in the mood to receive cunnilingus until I have an orgasm and I don’t want to be penetrated.” Other times it sound like “I’d like for you to bring me to orgasm and then I’d like you to enter me while I lay on my side. I will let you know if I want to switch positions.” And sometimes I may instead say “I’m not in the mood to have sex tonight but I would like to kiss.” After I tell my lover exactly what I want he can say yes or no and let me know any desires that he may have. I am blessed to have married a very generous lover who priorities my pleasure, so typically he is happy to oblige. He is grateful for the opportunity to worship at my temple and I deserve that. There is a common misconception that having this kind of explicit communication beforehand would kill the mood. Yet it has quite the opposite effect. Not only does it alleviate any anxiety about guessing what your partner wants, freeing you up to feel safe, comfortable, and present, but it is also really sexy to talk about your desires. To be present with your wants and needs and then talk about it with your lover is a potent form of foreplay.
I am not only learning to openly communicate my desires with my lover, I am learning to communicate with myself as well. I’m doing this by normalizing and destigmatizing self-pleasure. Feeling comfortable with creating pleasure for myself is incredibly empowering. I am the giver and the receiver, therefore I am fully in control. In this vulnerable space I find freedom, experimentation, honesty, and self-acceptance. I am able to feel pleasure exactly as I want to experience it. There is no one to compromise with, and the pleasure is all mine. In this liberated place, I learn the most about myself. I find the right buttons to push and the fantasies that ignite my flame. I allow my body to release without any pressure to please or perform. I get to know my form by touching it and exploring its velvet cave. And I remain open to what comes up emotionally for me during this process. I stay aware of the shame and judgements that creep up like cool water on hot stones. I notice my triggers that invite the shame in. Self-pleasure is my greatest teacher. Alone with myself, I work through the wave of emotions that are loaded into sexuality for me. Every time I decide to move through the shame to experience ecstasy is a victory.
As I am unfolding aspects of my sexuality through intimacy with my lover and self-pleasure I am learning so much about myself. This information that I gather is held in my sex journal, a beloved collection of revelations, traumas, breakthroughs, and fantasies. After each sexual experience, I reflect and then take my findings to my journal. Some tear-stained pages are filled with reflections about my childhood, while other pages hold detailed depictions of fantasy encounters that live inside my head. This journal is a trusted friend. It does not judge or ask questions. It simply listens and holds on to my truth. When I open its pages to read from the beginning I can celebrate how far I’ve come on my journey. I can bare witness to scars that have healed over time. Although I am not yet where I want to be, I know that I am not where I once was. There is hope written on these pages. My liberation is on the horizon.
I know that I am not alone in this journey towards sexual freedom. So many of us are hungry to renew harmony with our bodies but we don’t know where to start. Let us remove the shame from seeking guidance. Let us regain our power by connecting with those that can hold us up as we brave this new territory. For more resources, I recommend following @MyBodyofWords, who is a trusted ally specializing in Sexual Reparenting & Intimacy.
Crysta Bloom (she/her) The Kind Cocoa Mama, is a meditation healer specializing in techniques to “mother ourselves” which bring harmony to our wounded inner child. Crysta is also a child expert with over a decade of experience in classrooms and nonprofit sectors working in early childhood development. She unpacks the ways in which identity affects our mothering approach. Crysta practices gentle, conscious parenting philosophies and explores their intersection with the generational wisdom and trauma of black women. Crysta is also the founder of The Bloom Sisterhood Society, an interdisciplinary artist collective comprised of women of color providing art and healing to girls of color age 13-18yrs.